"For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa," said President Barack Obama.
In an address on May 19th, President Obama reviewed the dramatic events that began in Tunisia, in December 2010, with massive protests that ended two decades of authoritarian rule. Inspired by Tunisia's example, peoples in Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the region took to the streets to demand long-suppressed human rights and genuine democracy. These men and women, President Obama noted, "have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades."
For its part, the United States, said President Obama, remains committed to "countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safeguarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel's security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace."
The United States, said President Obama, must also proceed with humility to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people in the Middle East. "There must be no doubt," he said, "that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity."
The U.S. will continue to maintain core principles – opposition to violence and repression against the people of the region; universal human rights; and the right of the peoples of the region to choose their leaders.
"It will be the policy of the United States," said President Obama, "to promote reform across the region, and support transitions to democracy." This includes Libya, where the Libyan people are trying to rid themselves of the Gadhafi dictatorship. Concerning Syria, President Obama said, "President Assad now has a choice," -- he can lead the Syrian people in a transition to democracy, "or get out of the way."
President Obama said the government of Bahrain "must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis."
The U.S. supports a negotiated end to the Arab-Israeli conflict that results "in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine."
The U.S. will assist the transition to democracy in the region by promoting trade, investment, and economic stability for Tunisia and Egypt.
Transformation in the region will not be easy, said President Obama, but is too important to fail. The U.S. "cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights."